2015, PG-13, 102 min. Directed by Sergey Bodrov. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Djimon Hounsou, Antje Traue, Jason Scott Lee.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 13, 2015
Potentially a delirious double bill if viewed alongside Moore’s Oscar-nominated performance in Still Alice, this rambunctious swords ’n’ sorcerers fantasy flick has grubby, pseudo-medieval CGI style to burn, but precious little in the way of anything new to add to this sort of genre storytelling. Iconic American mythologist Joseph Campbell, one imagines, would have dozed off well before the first reel.
Seventh Son, however, has a built-in audience due to its adaptation from the popular YA fantasy-adventure stories, The Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney. Expect sequels in near-perpetuity because this is but the first outing in what is currently a 13-volume series of novels. (Delaney is nothing if not prolific.)
The twisty, everything-and-the-kitchen-witch narrative is, by turns, exciting and deadly dull. Barnes (of the Narnia films) is the titular seventh son, Tom Ward, who is yanked out of his reasonably comfortable, albeit stifling, teenage rut and away from his beloved mother (Williams) by a shaggy, reclusive warrior (Bridges, looking like a renegade from the Battle of the Five Armies). There’s a world to be saved from the clutches of evil, after all. If that sounds similar to a certain movie about a skywalking youth mentored by the last of another breed of wizened, reclusive warriors, well then, there is no try, there is only do-over, ad infinitum. Such are the archetypal rules by which mytho-fantasy heroes and heroines may achieve greatness. Seventh Son draws from many fantastic sources, meaning that if you’re a D&D or Magic: The Gathering player, or one of the dozen or so people on the planet who aren’t ravening for the new season of Game of Thrones to commence, then you’re already aware of how the story (scripted by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight) will develop.
But director Bodrov, to his credit, has assembled a stellar cast, including Moore as Mother Malkin, a witch entombed by Bridges’ witch-finder general Master Gregory, who, thanks to one of those pesky “blood moons,” morphs into a dragon and breaks free, sowing chaos and yet more witchery throughout the land. Moore is clearly having more fun here than she does in Still Alice, although I like to imagine that her I’m-having-a-blast-playing-this-character quotient peaked with The Big Lebowski. (How could it not?) Barnes, on the other hand, is bothersomely bland in the apprentice role, and Bridges appears to be channeling contemporary Randy Quaid. That is reason enough to shell out for a matinee ticket to this ultimately by-the-numbers, CGI-monster mash-up, but if you’re looking for mythopoetic resonance on par with J.R.R. Tolkien, you might as well just keep on waiting for winter. Which, in case you forgot, is coming.